Health Notes

Trouser Up To Prevent Lyme Disease

tick remover card by lifesystems

Down here in Dorset, we’re surrounded by footpaths by fields where sheep, cattle and horses graze and deer roam, foxes and badgers are rife – even the odd hedgehog, and mice and voles scuttling around in the grass and undergrowth. Yes, it’s rural bliss. It’s also prime hunting ground for ticks, the tiny critters that piggyback on all these beasts.

The problem is that the ticks feed on the blood of their hosts (little vampires!) and about 10% of them ingest the infectious bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that cause Lyme disease, which is virtually always transmitted to people by the bite of an infected tick.

Like many people living in the country, I used to blithely pull off ticks from my horses with bare fingers, squishing them under my nails. Then, some 15 years ago, I started to hear stories about neighbours being diagnosed with Lyme disease and suffering long-term debilitating symptoms. These can be serious enough for sufferers to give up working and may include neurological problems. Read More…

Diabetes And The Low Carb Diet

low carb spelled with vegetables on white background

How much will two slices of wholemeal bread increase your blood sugar? That may sound like a trick question but it’s not. In fact, there’s the equivalent of six teaspoons of table sugar in those two slices of ‘good for you’ bread. Likewise, a 150-gram serving of boiled rice has the equivalent of ten teaspoons of sugar, with nine teaspoons in a serving of potatoes.

While many people nowadays know that the fine white sparkly stuff is bad for our health – ‘pure, white and deadly,’ as pioneering ‘70s nutritionist Dr John Yudkin put it – most are unaware that all carbohydrates are in fact sugars. And sugars raise blood glucose (sugar) levels, which can cause a multitude of ill health conditions including weight gain with all its attendant problems such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Most recently, obesity has been identified as one of the key factors in patients suffering serious complications and death from COVID-19. Read More…

Thoughts On My Brother’s Last Illness

black and white photo of two siblings holding hands in warm clothes outside on a lawn

When the father of a dear friend died some years back, we talked about the words we use – ‘death’, ‘dying’, ‘passing on’ and so on – and how they made us feel. Which was at best passive, but more a sense of being disconnected – totally cut off from people who had been with us all our lives.

I talked to others including the father of a small boy killed in a coach crash far from home. To help his mourning sister, they designated a particular star as his so she could look up on clear nights and see her brother’s star sparkling. The notion that the people we love go star travelling still comforts me – fanciful perhaps but a way of keeping some connection with the person who’s died and their place in the universe.

My younger brother Simon died very recently after months of pain and suffering from cancer and Parkinson’s disease with other complications. He was at home and we watched as this intensely strong vibrant person declined. It was very distressing, and increasingly took over our minds every hour of the day and often night. Now his children – they’re grown ups in their thirties but he always called them ‘the kids’ – and I are in that strange state swinging between relief that his suffering has ended and unruly emotions of all kinds, laced with deep tiredness both in our bodies and minds. Read More…

You Need To Know About Blood Clots

DVT Deep Vein Thrombosis vector graphic written on a post it note in multicolours and on blue background

This week’s headlines shouted about the increased risk of abnormal blood clotting – venous thromboembolism (VTE) – in the lungs of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. A key trigger seems to be the cytokine storm where the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks the body. Widespread inflammation ensues which damages veins leading to clots. So COVID-19 patients in ICU are now routinely given an anticoagulant to thin the blood (low molecular weight heparin or LMWH). Together with much decreased use of mechanical ventilators in favour of less invasive Cpap machines (which blow air into the airways to help breathing), this appears to have significantly reduced the death rate.

In fact, all patients in ICU and in hospitals generally are known to be at risk for clots: deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which usually occurs in the calf or thigh, and pulmonary embolism (PE), in the lungs. Underlying causes include physical trauma, surgery and prolonged immobility. Read More…

Helping Hands With Gloves In A Bottle

Gloves in a bottle

When repeated intensive hand washing became mandatory in March, a friend phoned me in distress about her very dry hands, which had become red, chapped and sore. It wasn’t just her but also her grown-up children – she thought there might be a genetic component in their sensitive parched skin. My instant response was: ‘get Gloves In A Bottle – now!’ She ordered supplies from Victoria Health and a week or so later reported that this barrier hand cream had ‘worked miracles’ for all of them.

I was glad but not surprised. Over the years, I have distributed ‘Gloves’ to lots of people including farmers in the West Country with weeping swollen red knuckles and hands.  More recently, I gave some to the team of wonderful district nurses looking after my very ill brother at home in Somerset. They were amazed that I knew about it – ‘we thought it was just nurses who used it,’ one told me – and delighted to have supplies to supplement their solo precious bottle, kept at HQ. Importantly for nurses and other healthcare workers (and many of us now), research shows that, correctly applied, using Gloves doesn’t suppress the activity of a hand sanitizer. Read More…

Cancer Charity Look Good Feel Better Launches Virtual Workshops

yellow background with a simple vector smile and the word smile below it

Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) is the beauty and fragrance industry’s flagship initiative, organising free workshops in over 140 hospitals and cancer centres nationwide to help people with cancer overcome the visible side effects of treatments, such as skin issues and the loss of eye brows and lashes. It’s been one of our favourite charities since it started 25 years ago, about the same time as Beauty Bible.

I know from friends who have been through the gruelling regime of cancer treatment just how important it is to be able to look more like themselves. One of the most touching stories I heard was from a husband who dropped his (initially reluctant) wife off at a LGFB workshop to learn make up techniques. When she came out looking stunning he was so delighted that he wept. “I’ve got my wife back,” he told one of the organisers. Read More…